Federer, Williams Sisters advance in Rome

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Roger Federer’s last minute decision to compete at the Rome Masters was rewarded immediately as he coasted to a 6-3, 6-4 second-round win over Argentinian journeyman Carlos Berlocq here on Wednesday.

The Swiss was back on court just three days after winning the Madrid title on the controversial blue clay surface, an event where rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal fell by the wayside – both of them fiercely critical of the slick surface.

But with a ferocious series of tests over the next four months including the French Open, Wimbledon, the London Olympics and the US Open, Federer was not about to overload his programme unnecessarily.

“I only decided today after practise this morning,” said Fereder, whose win in Madrid took him to 74 ATP titles.

“I wanted to see how I felt and that nothing major was bothering me.

“I’m happy I felt good out there, but I’m going round-by-round.

“We are ahead of a long summer, this is the start of many events in a row and potentially a lot of five-setters. I needed to make sure that I took a good decision.”

The world number two with four titles this season — including two of the first three Masters events — will next play Spanish veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero, champion here 11 years ago.

Federer is on the hunt for his first Rome title after losing the 2003 and 2006 finals. The Swiss great never allowed Berlocq a look in as charged out by winning the first dozen points of the contest.

He said that making the quick-change from the speed of a Madrid clay court to the slower one in Rome is always a test.

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“You have to make adjustments. Guys can stand way behind the service line here and you have to watch your returns. It changes the whole playing style from the baseline and how points are constructed.

“I had two days off, had there only been one I don’t think I would have played here, “he confessed.

Other seeds advanced, with Madrid finalist and seventh seed Tomas Berdych leading the way with a defeat of Lukas Kubot 6-4, 6-1.

Number 10 seed Juan Martin Del Potro stopped Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-2 while French 11th seed Gilles Simon advanced past Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

In the women’s tournament, Czech Petra Cetkovska upset third seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 with the Pole losing her eighth match of the year, with six of those defeats coming at the hands of Victoria Azarenka.

Australian fifth seed Samantha Stosur defeated Italian Sara Errani 6-3, 7-5 while Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues advanced 6-4, 5-0 as former number one Caroline Wozniacki had to quit with breathing problems.

China’s Li Na beat Iveta Benesova 6-1, 7-5 while German Angelique Kerber ousted Vania King 6-3, 6-2. Madrid champion Serena Williams needed three sets to overcome Russian Nadia Petrova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

And Venus Williams also defeated Ekaterina Makarova 7-6, 6-1. The last time they met was at the 2010 Wimbledon, with Venus also prevailing in two straight sets.

Venus is at present ranked 63 in the world and Makarova 39.